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Pioneering black magazine’s history explored

FOUNDER: John H. Johnson, publisher of Jet and Ebony magazines, left, and actor Bill Cosby, centre, join the Rev. Jesse Jackson at a benefit reception for Operation PUSH, in Chicago, on April 1, 1982 (PA)

THIS AFTERNOON listeners of BBC Radio 4 have the opportunity to hear the story of pioneering black American magazine Ebony.

Established in 1945 in Chicago by John H. Johnson, the publication offered readers a window into African American life that had never been captured or navigated in the magazines and papers of the mass market.

Journalist Gary Younge heads up the programme, exploring the history and people who made Ebony a reality.

Still published today, the magazine covered a duality of life for Americans of black heritage; documenting achievement and celebrity culture – two paradigms that often interlinked with each other.

Describing the documentary, the BBC said: “The coming Civil Rights struggle would be chronicled in the pages of Ebony and sister magazine Jet, from the murder of Emmett Till to the assassination of Martin Luther King, who penned a regular column in Ebony.

“It would be the first magazine granted an in-depth interview by President Obama.

“Ebony has outlived the glossy photo magazines it was modelled on, Life and Time, and through its pages you can chart much of the epic story of struggle and achievement for Black America.”

Younge also looks forward, asking the question of what does the future hold for the pioneering ethnic publication in age of social media and instant communications.

Ebony: Black on White on Black airs today on BBC Radio 4 at 4pm.

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